Mr. Sen was pouring the coca-cola in the transparent glasses. The smooth flow of the cola was giving fresh vibes. It was sunday afternoon. After having a heavy lunch with fried-rice and chilly chicken, it was a must for Sen Family to have a glass of cola each. Sumi was asked to leave the glasses in a tray on the table. After leaving them there, Sumi went back to the kitchen and she was staring at the cola from the behind of the curtain to avoid the aware gaze of Mrs. Sen. Sumi feared in case she notices her, she may complain her mother which can result a scratch of hard stick in her leg.
Sumi isn’t a greedy type girl. None can blame her that she stole food from any house ever. Even no matter how much the delicate smell of biriyani allure her, she always controlled the extra-ordinary flow of saliva in her mouth and even never gazed aggressively to any of foods. But it was always hard for her to resist herself when the cola was in front of her. The dark brown colour of the liquid literally attracted her. She liked the chilling flavours of the soda in the drink. It’s kind of sweet taste was much appreciated by her. In simple words, She loved coca-cola very much. Sumi had this coca-cola years ago, when she had visited her Uncle’s house. It was the first time she had tasted it and had fell in love instantly. But as per her mother’s rule, she didn’t ask for more because her mother used to say- “Don’t ask for more food even if you feel to do so…..We are already poor….People will laugh at our condition.”
But she has seen Uncle’s son used to snatch foods from her plate. Sumi had always the question that why all laws to behave decent was only for poor !! But she never tried to question her mother because it was better not to be beaten balck and blue and left some question unanswered. It wasn’t that Sumi didn’t get enough food in the household…..She always ate full plate of rice and lentil soup along with a spicy dough of mashed potato, even sometimes fish or egg curry, But the problem was she never get the opportunity to get this costly restaurant foods. Being a daughter of wage-worker father and maid mother, it was too much to dream about those food, this was her mother’s logic. According to her, they never had the extra money to spend over luxury. Sumi had always obeyed her mother without a question, specially because she was grateful to her parents that even after the engulfing poverty, which was surrounded them from all directions, her parents never thought her as liability. When other girls of her age of their colony was getting married, her parents did all possible deeds to avail the local government school for her education. Her father firmly believed that, one day Sumi will get job and their poverty will come to end. She always felt guilty looking at the exhausted sweaty face of her father at the end of a laborious day. So being a mature girl, she never insisted for any luxury because she knew if she asks for something, then father will somehow bring it for her, no matter he needs to do overtime for whole month.
Sumi’s reverie was broken by Mrs. Sen’s grating voice.
– “Sumi, put the leftovers in the fridge !!” Taking another chilling sip of coca-cola, Mrs. Sen ordered her maid.
– “Yes, Didi !!” She made her way to the dining table. While putting the leftover chilly chicken, the delicious smell of the dish was lingering in her nose. She had cooked the dish just some hour ago, so it was absolutely fresh. All charms of her face was gone thinking this tasty foods are gonna come in her plate when it starts smelling foul. Yes, this has been the rule of this house from almost seven years, that fresh foods are for the owners. The maids aren’t allowed to have even a spoon of fresh food. Then the rest of the food are preserved in refrigerator, will be in the plates of the family at night. Then the leftovers are left unpreserved in the hot humid room temperature. In the morning, when the foods starts smelling foul, the rancid foods are given to Sumi and her mother by Mrs. Sen as a form of charity. Most of the time, the acrid foods were given to the stray dogs of her colony by Sumi’s mother. Though they were poor, they were human too, they also had a normal smelling power and normal taste buds.
Gazing at the fresh foods, she wanted to say the owner that, if you wish to give us the leftovers…. then give it now, when it is edible !! But she didn’t wanted to lose the jobs so she remained silent. But while putting the coca-cola bottle back, Sumi stopped for a moment. She desired to have one sip. Then she thought, what kind of mischievous thinking she was having !! What a shame !! She instantly put the bottle in its place and closed the fridge door.
After completing the whole work done, Sumi left for her home. It was a tiring day.She was feeling exhausted due to the overwork of today as her mother hadn’t come today. Sumi’s mother was a maid in this house for more than ten years now.From the age of seven or eight Sumi used to accompany her mother during her free time from school. Now, Sumi was a fifteen-year old girl with proper knowledge of all household chores. So, whenever her mother had some work, Sumi used to play the double role of her mother and herself. Just like today, her mother had to visit her brother’s school and later her grandma’s home as grandma was feeling unwell from some weeks.
There were some other houses too, where Sumi and her mother used to work. But Sen’s were the richest among them and also the rudest. It was just the attractive amount of wage that had stuck them in that house, otherwise their was no amount of emotional bond with this owner just like they had with others. Also the Sen’s used to make them work twice than they paid. Sumi had always the dream that once she get a job she will not let her mother to work in Sen’s and get humailiated by them. But today she mind was over something else. She was continuously remembering the coca-cola bottle. Also she was thinking it was a two litre bottle, would it fallen short if Sumi had just one sip !! Why these rich can’t consider them as human !! Also she was remembering the old mockery done by Mrs. Sen. She was only seven or eight, it was her very first day in the house. Mrs. Sen had called her mother and had said – “Train your daughter not to looking at the food like that….it can be a bad omen for my daughter’s health !!…And you know, I can’t tolerate Ruhi’s illness !!”
Sumi was infuriated thinking about old memories. These people think someone’s stare at food can make her daughter sick and call themselves educated !! Also she was thinking what is the use of the money where you have no honour.
Reaching home, Sumi washed her face and hands. Then she got busy in the very own family talk. Seeing her family happy with their regular dinner, she felt money was never everything. Just like, having this simple food with her family was better than having restaurant food at Sen’s !!
The next day, after the school she again made her way to Sen’s to help her mother. After completing the households, when Sumi and her mother was about to leave, Mrs. Sen called them. With her extraordinary tantrum, she was offering the rotten foods to them again. Sumi felt disgusted. She even had told her mother not to accept those rotten foods specially when there was no use of those, why to accept those and tolerate Mrs. Sen’s show off !! But her mother thought, a mere decline from them may hurt the fragile ego of Mrs. Sen. And she had extreme need of the work, so she accepted the packet politely as if she was grateful having those decaying foods. Mrs.Sen gave her winning smile as she was able to humiliate the poor maids of her house again. Yes, they deserve this rotten foods only, dirty poors !! Thinking this, Mrs. Sen gave a ghastly grin.
As per daily rule, the foods were distributed among strays.
Some more days passed. Every day she had to fight herself about not touching the coca-cola bottle. As coca-cola can’t be rotten, so she never get a sip of it. That afternoon, while putting the foods in fridge, she was stopped for sometime by the enchanting bottles of cola. She put her hands over the chilling covers of cola. She felt the icy chill.Her mouth felt watery thinking about the feeling of having a sip of icy cola in mouth, specially it was a humid summer afternoon. She somehow distracted herself and left the kitchen. But she couldn’t stop thinking about it. She was being desperate to have it. She thought, they had tolerated all the barbs by Mr. and Mrs. Sen through these years without answering back ever, so today if she get only one sip of cola, would it be a huge sin !!
She was unable to think more and being magnetized by her uncontrollable desire, decided to have just one sip of the cola stealthily.
She knew Mrs. Sen usually rest at around 5p.m. in her air-conditioned bedroom. She usually never comes out of the bedroom that time. So there was no chance of getting caught. it was the only opportunity for her. her mother was also in the basin busy in washing dishes. As soon as the thought triggered her mind, Sumi left her dusting cloth there and rushed towards the kitchen. It was all solitary around. She gave a sharp glare around the kitchen. She slowly opened the fridge. She was sweating abundantly due to excessive tension. She felt choked in anxiety. With her trembling hands, she finally grabbed the bottles and take it out of the fridge. She opened the cap as soon as possible and poured the soft drinks in her mouth. But it wasn’t that much pleasant feeling like she thought it would be. Her spine felt cold in fear. Even having only rice and lentil soup in home was much pleasant experience, she thought. making the situation worse, there was a war-cry from Mrs. Sen. Previously there was a significant gap between Sumi’s lip and the bottle. But due to the fierce scream from Mrs. Sen, Sumi was got more traumatised and accidentally the mouth of the bottle got touched by Sumi’s lips. Mrs. Sen started yelling more fiercely and acted like vomiting seeing the scene. She expressed her abhorrence in all possible ways. In the mean time, her mother came running hearing the scream. Sumi was about to place the bottle in her place and was continuously begging for mercy. But Mrs. Sen yelled ,
– “Ewww !! Don’t you dare to put that dirty bottle in my fridge !!”
Sumi was in tears and saying sorry continuously for thousand times without taking a breathe. But Mrs. Sen was turned deaf towards her urge. Even her mother was in tears and was apologising unconditionally for her daughter’s desperateness. But nothing worked. Mrs. Sen continued her verbal abusing to the girl because the huge sin she has committed.
– “I knew it !! The greedy poor !! Never saw good foods !! Always eyeing in our foods !! Illiterate jealous brats !! You don’t deserve a job in aristocrat society….You are like animals !! Always greedy for food !!”
Each of her words were stabbing the mother-daughter. Along with it, Sumi’s throat got dry thinking how much she will be beaten by her mother for such shamelessness !!
As expected, they were thrown out of the house along with the cola bottle which Sumi had accidentally touched in her lips. Mother didn’t say a word in Sen’s place. But, as soon as she was on the road, she started beating Sumi pulling her hair fiercely. Both of them were crying just the reason was different. There was a scene created in their colony. Sumi felt very much ashamed for her deeds as well. But time can’t be rewind. What was done was done forever.
Her father also got the news from her mother in phone. As she was very much agitated, she decided to bring out her anger by complaining to her husband.
It was night. Her father was just about to return home. Mother was continuously reminding her about her father.
– “Let your father come !! And you will see the price of such shamelessness !!” Sumi was prepared for another storm as well. In the mean time, there was a knock in the door. Mother rushed to open it and complain again on same issue. But what !! There was a one-litre coca-cola bottle in his hand !!
He said in modest voice – “Don’t get so angry, Meena !! It’s normal….We often forget that we poors are human too…We can also have some wishes….Specially they are children !!”
Meena was in tears hearing her husband. Yes, we often forget that we are human too….We can have desire…we can have faults !! Sumi rushed to her father and hugged him. Yes, she was always right, fathers are superheros and daughters are always princess to them no matter how rich of poor he is !! Only Sumi’s little brother who didn’t know why everyone was crying jumped in enjoyment. Later that night they had coca-cola in adequate amount. There was no fear of getting caught, no anxiety of getting humiliated. There was only happiness. Sumi finally got the desired taste of her favourite soft drinks.